HEALTH FOCUS: MUSC embraces diversity and inclusion

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Heather Woolwine / MUSC Office of Communication and Marketing

What does it mean to really embrace the concepts of diversity and inclusion? Sure, we can say the words, but as many of us know, words are just that… words. Without intentional action behind those words, they are meaningless strings of letters with no impact or transparency. After you read this, I hope that it will become more clear to the communities we serve that MUSC is actively embracing diversity and inclusion, and not just talking about it.

There exists a perception that MUSC never fully acknowledged or took responsibility for the March 1969 hospital workers’ strike. The walkout, which was organized by Mary Moultrie, an MUSC nurse’s aide, was an opportunity for workers to express their strong conviction that MUSC wasn’t addressing their concerns about discrimination, patient safety, harassment, unequal pay, and widespread racial discord. Recently, the MUSC Board of Trustees issued a resolution publicly recognizing the mistakes of this past:

Some people still feel MUSC has not made as much progress since that time as it could have. That is a legacy we don’t want, and we are actively working to change it. As a forward-thinking institution, we are committed to continued development of an organization that draws its strength from a rich tapestry of cultures, ideas and talent. We also know that without a good plan and a measured, intentional process for culture change, we could end up with ineffective chaos- more talk and not enough walk.

The first step in truly “walking the talk” was the drafting and initial implementation of the MUSC Strategic Plan for Diversity and Inclusion, which took more than a year to complete and involved hundreds of people from all areas of the MUSC campus to brainstorm, draft and initially implement phases of that plan. Specifically, the plan addresses recruitment and pipeline development for health care careers, education and training, how we will measure and evaluate our success, engagement and inclusion of the communities we serve, and better community relations through enhanced communication. For a full look at the plan, please visit:

The strategic plan is a monumental first step in making necessary progress. It’s a way to acknowledge the successes we’ve had, those we’ll continue to make and that yes, we are not perfect.  Yes, our institution has further to travel. Our dream is for anyone who finds themselves in touch with MUSC, for any reason, to feel respected and valued. Our leadership understands that by leveraging differences in ways that allow people to understand and be understood, we ultimately make diversity and inclusion integral to the fabric of MUSC. That in turn only increases the level of excellence we can provide in our research, education and patient care missions. Only through awareness, understanding and mutual respect will MUSC, or any organization for that matter, have the opportunity to flourish and reach its full potential.

Another early development in the implementation of the strategic plan for diversity and inclusion involved the creation of the President’s Advisory Council for Diversity and Inclusion, a community group that, along with MUSC representatives, comprises three distinct groups: elected officials, faith–based community leaders and leaders who are valuable resources for other diverse groups such as the black, LGBT, Spanish–speaking, and historically underserved communities throughout the Tri–county area.

The advisory council is intended to provide MUSC leadership with insight into efforts that may successfully improve relationships within MUSC over time, and the group functions as an ongoing consultancy to support the efforts of the strategic plan. Although the council does not have programmatic, administrative or legislative authority, already its members have served as a resource for organizational change. We know we need that direct feedback from an engaged constituency who represent the Charleston community, and we understand that means that sometimes we are going to hear things that are uncomfortable or critical of MUSC. Shying away from criticism is unproductive and unrealistic- that’s why the advisory council itself is comprised of diverse advocates and critics. It’s where we will continue to be challenged, make changes, and perhaps sometimes, agree to disagree.

Meaningful and lasting change takes time. The creation of this strategic plan and the advisory council for the advancement of diversity and inclusion at MUSC are but two over-arching examples of the incredible amount of work that is happening on campus. To make every person feel respected and valued is a lofty, ambitious, challenging, and absolutely necessary goal… and the only way to get there is to walk the talk.




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